Contested case hearing sought in aquarium fish collection incident

  • The vessel’s hold contained 550 live fish, including 472 yellow tang, 37 kole, 26 orange-spine surgeonfish, five orangeband surgeonfish, five Moorish idols, and one specimen each of Saddle Wrasse, Goldrim surgeonfish, Hawaiian Dascyllus, common longnose butterflyfish and blacklip butterflyfish. All of the fish were returned live to the ocean. (DLNR/Special to West Hawaii Today)

A contested case hearing has been requested by three Big Island residents facing a combined $110,000 in administrative fines for alleged illegal aquarium fish collecting earlier this year off the South Kohala Coast.

The Board of Land and Natural Resources on Friday was set to take up the enforcement action against Tyron Terazono, Kacie Terazono and Wayne Newman during the live-streamed meeting; however, an oral request for a contested case hearing was made before board members entertained the agenda.

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The Department of Land and Natural Resources did not respond as of press time Tuesday on whether the petition had been physically filed, as requested by board members, or if the board had set a hearing date.

The department’s Division of Aquatic Resources is proposing $110,000 in fines to be split among the three, according to a submittal by DAR Administrator Brian Neilson. Tyron Terazono would pay $38,600, Kacie Terazono $37,800 and Wayne Newman $38,000 for the alleged unlawful collection of 550 reef fish off Kawaihae in February.

The aquatic life allegedly collected illegally within the West Hawaii Regional Fishery Management Area had a retail value of nearly $37,500 with yellow tang accounting for more than $32,000 of that.

Under administrative rules, a fine of up to $550,000 alone could have been sought for the 550 fish taken. Fines for rule violations could have been $9,000 for Tyron Terazono, $6,000 for Kacie Terazono, and $7,000 for Newman.

However, based on a sanctions schedule adopted by the board in 2014, a fine of $200 for each of the applicable violations and specimen taken was recommended in the case, according to the submittal.

The Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement said it received a tip Feb. 20 concerning illegal harvesting of aquarium fish off Kawaihae.

Officers subsequently conducted a commercial fishing gear and catch inspection of the vessel “Masako” when it returned to the Kawaihae Small Boat Harbor with three on board. The inspection allegedly turned up aquarium fishing gear, including a small mesh net, aboard the vessel, according to the department.

The vessel’s hold also contained 550 live fish, including 472 yellow tang, 37 kole, 26 orange-spine surgeonfish, five orangeband surgeonfish, five Moorish idols, and one specimen each of saddle wrasse, Goldrim surgeonfish, Hawaiian dascyllus, common longnose butterflyfish and blacklip butterflyfish. All of the fish were returned live to the ocean.

The vessel was not marked for aquarium collection and none of the people on board had West Hawaii aquarium collection permits, according to the submittal.

At the time, there was also a total prohibition on all commercial aquarium collection within the area, which extends from Ka Lae (South Point) in Ka‘u to Upolu Point in North Kohala after the Hawaii Supreme Court ruled them invalid in fall 2017.

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Following the inspection, Tyron Terazono and Newman were subsequently charged with possessing aquarium collecting gear or taking, possessing aquatic life for aquarium purposes without holding a valid West Hawaii aquarium permit and possessing a “white list” species, which are all petty misdemeanors. The third person was not issued a criminal citation.

Arraignment and plea hearings for the two men remain set for June after having to be rescheduled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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